Considering that chocolate is part of my daily diet, it was no surprise that I took a bite out of a random piece that I found sitting on my kitchen counter that day. It tasted terrible — kind of minty — so I spit out most of it.
It was a busy day: Not only was I preparing for a large Labor Day party at my home, but I also planned to spend a few hours helping my church get ready for a huge Labor Day yard sale. When I started feeling a little dizzy and lightheaded, I ignored it and kept on working. I had felt similar to this a few weeks earlier because of dehydration, so I figured it would pass. I continued setting up for the party.
The feeling persisted and increased a little in intensity. I thought back to my morning regimen and checked to make sure I hadn’t taken the wrong pills, but everything seemed okay there.
As the dizziness and lightheadedness increased, I remembered the candy bar. I also recalled that I had thrown away a wrapper before I came across that piece of candy. I remembered seeing the words “Liquid Gold.”
“Oh, my gosh, I’ve eaten a bar of furniture polish,” I thought to myself. I tried to find the wrapper in the trash, but things were not making much sense at this point. I called Poison Control; the people there thought that I would be okay, given that I had swallowed barely any of whatever it was. They said they would check with me periodically for the next four hours.
Things were getting hazier and everything seemed to be in slow motion. I knew that I would be okay if it didn’t get any worse, but I wanted somebody to know what was going on in case I became incapacitated. I called my husband’s office, but he was in a meeting. I went to my neighbor’s house and asked him to check on me in an hour.
As time slowed down more and more, the hour seemed interminable. I was still standing, but I was barely functioning. I couldn’t find my phone. Things didn’t make sense.
I was relieved when my neighbor came over. He took one look at me trying to stand up and said we should go to the hospital. I readily agreed. He wasn’t sure exactly how to get there, but I assured him I knew the way. However, everything was a blur and very distorted, and I kept falling asleep. When I saw a row of cars, I thought it was a parade. I felt as though I was hallucinating.
We made it to the hospital, but the short ride seemed very long to me. My husband met us at the emergency room. I was having trouble staying awake, and I was losing control of my arms and legs. The staff had to put me a wheelchair to get me back to a room.
I could barely speak at that point, but I had been cognizant enough earlier to tell my neighbor about Poison Control and Liquid Gold. The hospital contacted Poison Control, but nobody could understand why I was having the symptoms that I was. Poison Control said that Liquid Gold furniture polish doesn’t come in a bar. Also, I wasn’t nauseated; instead, I was semiconscious and barely verbal. The nurse suggested that my husband go home and try to find the wrapper.
The doctor thought I was having a stroke and sent me for an MRI scan in a room where some of the ceiling tiles had been replaced with pictures of flowers. I thought I was in heaven. The whir of the MRI machine was very peaceful, and I just wanted to float away.
As they put me on the gurney to take me back to the emergency room, I started emerging slowly out of the fog.
About then, my husband arrived with the wrapper. This Liquid Gold was not furniture polish. It was a Cookies n’ Cream candy bar — with marijuana in it. I wasn’t having a stroke, I was tripping.
I was still very groggy when I spoke to my 26-year-old son just after finding out it was marijuana. At first he thought it was funny, but then he realized the seriousness and kept apologizing. He wasn’t sure exactly how the candy bar had gotten into the house; a friend of a friend of a friend had brought it from California, where medical marijuana is legal.
While we laughed about it at first, the story has its frightening aspects. The first is that I had such a small piece of the candy bar yet had such severe symptoms. I was also thankful that none of our pets or a child found it.
This particular candy bar came from G FarmaLabs, which describes its products as aimed at the medical and recreational market, where legal.
Even with the wrapper, it would be easy to overlook the fact that this was no normal candy bar. Last year, Hershey sued Tincturebelle, a Colorado manufacturer, and Conscious Care of Seattle for trademark infringement, demanding that the companies stop selling marijuana products that resemble Hershey items. Although the packaging of the candy bar I ate displayed an image of a marijuana plant and warned that it contained cannabis, the chocolate image dominated. On the back it said, “Warning: This Product contains a high level of THC. Not a food. Keep away from children.”
There was no description of the possible reactions that people can experience after digesting marijuana candy. John Nicolazzo, co-owner of Marijuanadoctors.com, a Web site that helps patients find doctors who prescribe marijuana, said reactions can include shallow low breathing, dry mouth, anxiety, paranoia, dizziness, slow reaction time, red eyes and/or dilated pupils, depression, short-term memory loss, distorted sense of time and increased appetite.
These are important issues as more and more states legalize marijuana.
In November, District voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 71, legalizing the limited possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults who are 21 or older. Congressional Republicans, however, are trying to prevent implementation of this measure, using the federal budget bill to ban use of tax money to administer the law. Some D.C. leaders are trying to outmaneuver Congress and put the law into effect.
Colorado, Washington state and, most recently, Alaska and Oregon have legalized recreational use. The District and 23 states have laws allowing medical use of marijuana. Medical use is tightly controlled in the District: While California patients can get their supplies at many different places with minimal paperwork, for example, D.C. patients can use only the licensed commissary where they have registered.
Metropolitan Wellness Center is one of the dispensaries licensed to provide cannabis to registered patients and caregivers in Washington. The center’s dispensary near Eastern Market in Southeast sells marijuana in smokable and edible forms — flowers, prerolls, tinctures and concentrates — but not chocolate bars.
Nicolazzo said that the labels on the same candy bar vary greatly from state to state. A label on one candy bar in California says the bar contains six servings and describes each section as one serving size, adding that a dose is 35 milligrams.
Washington state requires a warning label: “CAUTION: When eaten the effects of this product can be delayed by as much as two hours.”
William Stage, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Alexandria, said that while smoked marijuana goes to the brain in 20 seconds, it takes longer for marijuana in food to take effect. Also, marijuana can have more of a psychedelic effect when eaten.
And marijuana candy bars may contain more THC, the drug’s main active ingredient, than marijuana cigarettes do. And it’s possible, Stage said, that even a small amount could have a strong effect on someone new to marijuana.
“If you use drugs a lot, you build up tolerance,” he said.
As for me, I’m grateful I didn’t like the taste of that candy bar. What if I had eaten the entire thing?
Curcio is a freelance writer in Alexandria.